Learning to Argue in a Connected World: The Arc of Productive Disciplinary Engagement In a High School Academic Social Network
Teske, Paul Robert-John
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Calls to virtually break down school walls through connected and blended learning environments are ubiquitous as of late as technologies in service of learning evolve and as schools are under pressure to change. Within the subject area of English Language Arts, there is a dearth of research or information on how to facilitate these new, digitally enhanced methods in high schools in a way that approaches or leads to productive disciplinary engagement (PDE). The current study describes one such scenario in which an academic social network (Remix) was used for the retrieval of curriculum, the storage of student work, and the exchange for both social and academic conversations with an entire freshman class of high school students across three teachers and eight classrooms. The seven-week curriculum focused on learning to read, analyze, and write evidence-based, classical arguments. Experts in argumentation (e.g., lawyers, journalists, grant writers, ex-English teachers, etc.) interacted with the students three times during the arc of the unit to give targeted feedback to students during their growing understanding of argumentation. To determine the degree to which PDE occurred within the platform, the posts of twenty-five randomly selected students, who had at least one interaction with an expert, were downloaded and coded for Social and Cognitive Presence--two domains of the Community of Inquiry Model. The analysis illustrated that Social Presence acted as connective tissue to academic tasks and that socializing moved to an academic orientation as students collaborated and worked toward a common goal. Cognitive Presence also moved from trigger events which included recognizing and puzzling over contemporary issues to the exploration and integration of ideas as the unit progressed. The discourses associated with academic social networks proved slightly troublesome for students, lending credence that they need more practice in such platforms when posting and responding to academic content. A second investigation was completed to look more specifically at expert feedback in relation to PDE components, argumentation, and curricular activity. Differences between the three feedback interactions proved scientifically significant, thus illustrating experts adjusted their responses to students depending on the task. Experts moved from problematizing student arguments at the trigger stage of topic selection to directing students as to how to fix their arguments during the integration stage of production, thus holding students accountable to disciplinary norms as the unit progressed. Advice for how to utilize a social network and work with outside experts is also covered.
- Education - Seattle